MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's top diplomat warned NATO against redeploying U.S. atomic weapons to Eastern Europe if Germany refuses to keep hosting them, saying Wednesday that such a move would be irresponsible and provocative.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was responding to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's comment this month that the alliance would need to consider relocating nuclear weapons east if the new German government changes the country’s policy on nuclear sharing.
Lavrov described Stoltenberg’s statement as “absolutely irresponsible” and “outrageous.”
“It’s not just fanning confrontation. It’s an attempt to provoke a hot conflict,” the minister said, speaking to members of the upper house of Russia's parliament.
Relations between Russia and NATO sank to post-Cold War lows after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and supported a separatist insurgency that started the same year in eastern Ukraine.
Tensions escalated last month amid Ukrainian and Western concerns about a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that raised fears that Moscow could invade its neighbor.
The longtime leader of Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko, said in a Tuesday interview that his country would be willing to host Russian nuclear weapons if NATO redeployed U.S. atomic bombs from Germany to Eastern Europe.
Lavrov described Lukashenko’s offer as a “serious warning prompted by the reckless Western policy.”